This is the first of a two-part series.
We have some friends practicing their “debt-free scream” for an upcoming appearance on the Dave Ramsey show on December 13. It’s an exciting thing for them! Hearing them talk about practicing that scream got me thinking… when is the last time that I heard somebody do the “exhaustion-free scream,” myself included? Am I being as intentional with my time as they were with their financial choices?
The Dave Ramsey principles for getting out of debt can also apply to time. And there’s one key thing that makes time different than money: We all get the same amount each day. If we start thinking about time through this lens, it can help us be more intentional and ensure we are using our time wisely.
Identify Where Your Time Goes
In Dave Ramsey’s teachings about getting out of debt, you’ll often hear examples of how little things add up. If you buy one latte a day for $5.50, you’ll spend $2,000 on coffee drinks in a year! People might know they’re spending money on coffee every day, but they often don’t realize how much. It’s a leak in their budget.
The same concept can be applied to time! If we each reduced our social media time by just 15 minutes a day, we would reclaim 91 hours per year. That’s basically two more work weeks! That is a lot of time you could use to accomplish something meaningful.
I started looking at where my time really goes and, more importantly, looking for the leaks. I tried to identify 15 minutes of wasted time each day, and I found plenty. It’s amazing how we can easily spend 15 minutes on meaningless activities that don’t get us closer toward our goals.
That extra 15 minutes a day you can reclaim doesn’t only apply to professional goals. It could be put toward a relationship goal, a health goal, more time for intentional rest, etc. I often hear from clients that they just “can’t find the time” for the things that matter. If you watch the clock for a few days and track where your time goes, you will be amazed at the leaks that can occur checking the phone, chatting with coworkers, doing chores inefficiently, etc.
Categorize Wants Versus Needs
Sometimes the things people want can destroy their budget and prevent them from paying for the needs. We might want a new car or new pair of shoes, but we need to pay the electric bill and buy groceries for our family instead. That new pair of shoes is a lot more exciting than paying the electric bill, but you have to prioritize needs and limit wants to get out of debt.
The same applies to managing your time. Being able to label your time obligations as essential or nice to do is critical. I am guilty of sometimes working on the interesting projects that I want to do versus hammering out the projects that need to be done. I think most people can say the same thing. Really looking at the impact of each task/project on overall goals is essential in the time budgeting process. This also might be where you discover a leak in your time budget.
Be Intentional With Your Priorities
We all have priorities, and if we look at our time allocation, it tells us what they are. But are they what we want them to be???
Think about allocating your 24 hours in every day the same way you allocate your monthly income for your budget. How much time do I plan to give to each area? I align with Dave Ramsey’s thinking for money when thinking about my time — pay God first (quiet time, worship, gathering), then yourself (health/rest), then other obligations — your family, your work, friends, hobbies, etc.
I find when I budget my time in this order, there is always time for everything that is essential plus some time left over for what I enjoy.
Plan Ahead for Fun Time
One aspect I love about the Dave Ramsey concept on money is the importance of budgeting for the fun stuff and then enjoying it guilt free. When you budget for vacation, eating out, or special purchases, you know that money has been set aside for that expense, so you don’t worry if you should’ve used it for something else.
The same thing applies to time. When you allocate time for just relaxing, reading a book, working out, having coffee with a friend, or playing with the kids, you can enjoy that time without feeling guilty that you’re not getting work done. You’ve already determined what you should be doing with that time — having fun or relaxing. In essence, the time budget gives you permission to fully immerse yourself in each chosen activity.
I find that makes me more productive when working, and helps me be more fully present (instead of thinking I should be somewhere else) when taking time with family, friends, or myself.
How we spend our time should be a reflection of our priorities, but in order to do that, you first have to identify your priorities. I challenge you to track your time and really think about whether or not it aligns with your priorities. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to make some changes.